Friday, August 15, 2008

EPL Previews: Manchester United

Well, I've put it off long enough. It's unlikely I can tell you anything new about the team that seemed to feature in almost every offseason story anyway. Just to recap: won the Champions League; won the EPL; fought with Cristiano Ronaldo over his future; kept blabbing to the press how they wanted Berbatov; lost Quieroz to Portugal job; Rooney got married, went to Africa where Rooney caught a virus, Rooney may not play, Rooney available for opening day; Ferguson played his mind games with anyone and everyone, sometimes successfully, sometimes not; Fergie makes bid for Thierry Henry. You can bet that even as the offseason closes, more drama will be found emanating from Old Trafford. It's just what they do.

Of course, it helps that they do it all so well. Since United won the FA Cup under Ferguson in 1990, they have been, undoubtedly, the force of the English game. 10 Premier League titles, five FA Cup triumphs, two league cups, eight Community Shields, two Champions League titles, one Cup Winner's Cup win, one Super Cup win, and one Intercontinental Cup title. Throw out the one-off titles (Community Shield, Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup), and, in 18 years, Manchester United have won 20 major trophies. No wonder so many people hate them.

I know I do. By rights, Manchester United should be my English team. Ferguson guided my favorite club, Aberdeen, to unprecedented heights while manager in the north. Manchester United has always been seen as a welcoming home for Scots playing in England. So why do I hate the team and that son-of-a-bitch manager so much? Because they have been so successful at the us-against-the-world, scorched-earth approach that Ferguson plies so very well.

It is what will propel them into the top spot again this year. It is what will take them to at least the semi-finals of the Champions League. It is what will make them a force in the FA Cup, provided they get out of the early, play-your-reserves, rounds. It is what will propel them to a home lashing of Arsenal in the league. What makes them unlikeable, to me at least, makes them winners.

On paper (thanks LB, for putting this phrase into my head today), this team is not much different from last year's edition. The most painful loss to the team will be selling Chris Eagles to Burnley. As you are wracking your brain trying to figure out when Eagles last scored in a competitive match, I'll just opine that his loss will not hurt the club that much.

The club didn't bring in anyone of note, either. Or, instead of "either", maybe I should say, "yet". United have been disrupting other teams by tracking various forwards, but have not made (I'm guessing) actual, serious bids on anyone. As long as Cristiano Ronaldo comes back healthy, it won't really matter.

Good ol' C.Ron. How boring this offseason would have been without him. First he blew it in the Euros, then had surgery, tried to leave United, compared himself to a slave, blew off Nereida Gallardo after one last paparazzi-filled vacation, and blew off the girl from The Hills while bedding countless other women in LA in between tanning. Then, he decided he would stay at United after all, if only for one more year (of his five year contract). It would be annoying if he wasn't so damn good at putting the ball in the net (which is annoying in its own way).

I guess all this blather has been to say that United's season this year will look a lot like United's season last year. Mid-80s on points, 70+ goals. Tevez and Rooney effectively, and ugly-ly, running things up top. Ronaldo dancing all over the place. Scholes to defensively lock down midfield. Rio policing the back line, and van der Sar making the occasional save when necessary. If they get lucky, they may even break their own record for fewest goals allowed in a season.


Prediction: 1st

1 comment:

Mike Georger said...

my prediction: rooney plays the first game (already coming true)
ronaldo misses less than four league games
rio ferdinand continues to look like the cuban guy from bangbros (not dismissing the possibility of them being one in the same)